“Keep walking by spirit.”—GAL. 5:16.
1, 2. What did one brother find lacking with regard to his spiritual condition, and what did he do about it?
ROBERT got baptized as a teenager, but he did not really take the truth seriously. He says: “I never did anything wrong, but I was just going through the motions. I looked spiritually strong, being at all the meetings and serving as an auxiliary pioneer a few times a year. But something was missing.”
2 Robert himself did not perceive what was wrong until later when he got married. He and his wife began passing time by quizzing each other on Bible subjects. His wife, a spiritually strong person, had no problem answering the questions, but Robert found himself constantly embarrassed, not knowing what to say. He says: “It was as if I knew nothing. I thought to myself, ‘If I am going to be my wife’s spiritual head, I have to do something.’” And Robert did. He says: “I studied the Bible and studied and studied some more, and the pieces started to fit together. I got understanding and, most important, developed a close relationship with Jehovah.”
3. (a) What can we learn from Robert’s experience? (b) What key points will we now discuss?
3 We can learn important lessons from Robert’s experience. We may have some Bible knowledge and may regularly associate with the Christian congregation, but these things in themselves do not necessarily make us into a spiritual person. Or we may have already made progress, but when we examine ourselves further, we find that we can still improve our spirituality. (Phil. 3:16) To help us to continue progressing, we will answer three key questions in this article: (1) What will help us to analyze the true state of our spirituality? (2) How can we cultivate spirituality and keep growing as a spiritual person? (3) How can strong spirituality help us in our daily life?
4. To whom does the counsel found at Ephesians 4:23, 24 apply?
4 When we became servants of God, we made a transformation. This change affected every area of our life. And it was not over when we got baptized. We are told to “continue to be made new in [our] dominant mental attitude.” (Eph. 4:23, 24) Since we are not perfect, we all need to continue making changes. Even longtime servants of Jehovah need to maintain their spirituality.—Phil. 3:12, 13.
5. What questions can help us analyze ourselves?
5 To improve and maintain our spirituality, we need to analyze ourselves honestly. Whether we are young or old, we can ask ourselves these questions: ‘Do I notice changes in myself that indicate that I am moving toward becoming a spiritually-minded person? Is my personality becoming Christlike? What do my disposition and conduct at Christian meetings reveal about the depth of my spirituality? What do my conversations show about my desires? What do my study habits, dress and grooming, or reaction to counsel reveal about me? How do I react when faced with temptations? Have I progressed beyond basics to maturity, becoming full-grown as a Christian?’ (Eph. 4:13) Thinking about our answers to these questions can help us measure our spiritual progress.
6. To analyze the state of our spirituality, what else may be needed?
6 To analyze the state of our spirituality, we may at times need help from others. The apostle Paul pointed out that the fleshly person cannot see the wrongness of his position before God. On the other hand, the spiritual person understands God’s viewpoint as well as the erroneous course of the physical man. (1 Cor. 2:14-16; 3:1-3) Elders who have the mind of Christ often see early warning signs of fleshly thinking. If they bring these to our attention, do we accept and apply their counsel? By doing so, we give evidence of our desire to develop our spirituality.—Eccl. 7:5, 9.
7. Why is having Bible knowledge not enough to become a spiritually-minded person?
7 Keep in mind that having knowledge of the Bible is not enough to become a spiritually-minded person. Ancient King Solomon had a lot of knowledge about Jehovah’s ways. His sayings later became part of the Bible. But in the end, he failed to stay faithful to Jehovah as a spiritual man. (1 Ki. 4:29, 30; 11:4-6) So in addition to Bible knowledge, what is needed? We need to continue to make spiritual progress. (Col. 2:6, 7) But how do we do so?
8, 9. (a) What will help us to develop spiritual stability? (b) What is our goal when we study and meditate? (See opening picture.)
8 Paul urged first-century Christians to “press on to maturity.” (Heb. 6:1) In order to apply Paul’s counsel today, what steps can we take? One important step is to study the publication “Keep Yourselves in God’s Love.” Completing your study of that book will help you to see how to apply Bible principles in your life. If you have already finished studying that book, can you move on to other study materials that can help you to stabilize your faith? (Col. 1:23) Do you prayerfully meditate on how you can apply in your life what you are studying?
9 Keep in mind that as we study and meditate, we should do so with the goal of developing a heartfelt desire to please Jehovah and obey his laws. (Ps. 40:8; 119:97) At the same time, we work to reject things that will hinder our spiritual growth.—Titus 2:11, 12.
10. What can young people do to cultivate spirituality?
10 If you are a youth, do you have clear spiritual goals? When attending circuit assemblies, a brother who serves at Bethel has made it his custom to speak with baptism candidates before the program. Many candidates are youths. The brother asks them what spiritual goals they have. Many give answers that reveal that they have a clear vision of what they want to do to serve Jehovah—perhaps by entering some form of full-time service or by serving where there is a greater need for Kingdom proclaimers. Occasionally, however, there are youths who do not seem to have an answer. Might that indicate that they have not yet resolved in their heart that they should have clear spiritual goals? As a youth, ask yourself: ‘Am I participating in spiritual activities just because my parents expect me to? Am I drawing closer to God by nurturing a personal relationship with him?’ Of course, the counsel to have spiritual goals applies not just to youths. Having such goals will help all of us as Jehovah’s servants to deepen our spirituality.—Eccl. 12:1, 13.
11. (a) To make real spiritual progress, what do we need to do? (b) What Bible example can we imitate?
11 Once we have identified areas for improvement, we need to take positive steps that will help us move forward. Becoming a spiritual person is very important. In fact, it is a life-and-death matter. (Rom. 8:6-8) However, for us to be spiritually mature does not mean to be perfect. Jehovah’s spirit can help us to make the needed progress. Still, we do need to put forth effort. In commenting on Luke 13:24, John Barr, who served as a member of the Governing Body, pointed out some years ago, “Many fail because they are not diligent enough to grow mighty.” We need to be like Jacob, who did not give up wrestling with an angel until he got a blessing. (Gen. 32:26-28) Although Bible study can be enjoyable, we should not expect the Bible to read like a novel that is written just to entertain. We need to work at finding spiritual gems that will help us.
12, 13. (a) What will help us to apply Romans 15:5? (b) How can the apostle Peter’s example and counsel help us? (c) What can you do to cultivate spirituality? (See the box “Steps You Can Take to Progress Spiritually.”)
12 As we work at cultivating spirituality, holy spirit will give us the power to transform our mind. With the spirit’s help, we can gradually begin to think more and more as Christ did. (Rom. 15:5) Additionally, it will help us root out fleshly desires and cultivate qualities pleasing to God. (Gal. 5:16, 22, 23) If we find that our mind pushes us toward materialistic thinking or fleshly desires, we should not give up. Keep asking for the spirit, and Jehovah will help you to redirect your mental attitude to focus on proper things. (Luke 11:13) Remember the apostle Peter. Several times in his life, he did not respond as a spiritual man should. (Matt. 16:22, 23; Luke 22:34, 54-62; Gal. 2:11-14) But he did not give up. Gradually, with Jehovah’s help, Peter developed Christlike thinking. We can do the same.
13 Peter, in fact, later spelled out specific things we can work on. (Read 2 Peter 1:5-8.) As we “put forth all earnest effort” to develop such qualities as self-control, endurance, and brotherly affection, we will be helped to continue to move ahead as spiritually-minded individuals. Each day, why not ask yourself, ‛What can I work on today to progress spiritually?’
APPLYING BIBLE PRINCIPLES IN DAILY LIFE
14. How will being spiritually-minded affect our life?
14 Our Christlike thinking will influence our speech, our conduct at work or in school, and the decisions we make each day. Those decisions will reveal that we strive to be followers of Christ. As spiritual people, we want nothing to jeopardize our relationship with our heavenly Father. When we are confronted with temptations, our Christlike attitude will move us to push them away. When making decisions, we will stop and ponder over these questions: ‛What Bible principles will help me decide? What would Christ do in this situation? What decision will please Jehovah?’ To train ourselves to think this way, let us take a look at a few sample situations. In each example, we will identify a Scriptural principle that can help us make a wise decision.
15, 16. Give examples of how Christlike thinking helps us when making decisions about (a) selecting a marriage mate. (b) choosing our associations.
15 Selecting a marriage mate. The Scriptural principle is found at 2 Corinthians 6:14, 15. (Read.) Paul’s words clearly state that a spiritual person cannot enjoy complete harmony with a physical person. How can this be applied to choosing a marriage mate?
16 Associations. Note the Scriptural principle found at 1 Corinthians 15:33. (Read.) A godly person will not mix with those who could endanger his spirituality. What questions could help you to make practical application? For example, how does this apply to social networking? Or what should you do if invited to play online games with strangers?
17-19. How will having a spiritual viewpoint help you (a) to avoid vain pursuits? (b) to set goals in life? (c) to deal with disputes?
17 Activities that hinder spiritual growth. Paul’s words to fellow Christians contain a warning. (Read Hebrews 6:1.) What are the “dead works” that we should avoid? Any pursuits that are spiritually dead, vain, or fruitless. This principle can help us with many questions that could arise in our life, such as: ‘Does this activity fall in the category of fleshly works? Should I get involved in this money-making proposal? Why should I not join worldly reform movements?’
18 Spiritual goals. Jesus’ words spoken in the Sermon on the Mount give us clear guidance about setting goals. (Matt. 6:33) A spiritual person pursues spiritually oriented goals. Keeping this principle in mind helps us answer such questions as: ‘Should I pursue plans for an advanced education? Should I accept a certain job offer?’
19 Disputes. How does Paul’s counsel to the congregation in Rome help us in dealing with disputes? (Rom. 12:18) As followers of Christ, we work to “be peaceable with all men.” When disputes arise, how do we react? Do we find it difficult to yield, or are we known as those who are “making peace”?—Jas. 3:18.
20. Why do you want to move forward spiritually?
20 These are just a few examples to show how reflecting on godly principles can help us make decisions that harmonize with what is expected of a spiritual person. Being spiritually-minded can help us to make our daily life happier and more satisfying. Robert, whose experience was considered at the beginning of this article, says: “After I developed a real relationship with Jehovah, I was a better husband and a better father. I was content and happy.” We can enjoy similar blessings if we make spiritual progress our priority. As spiritual people, we will enjoy a more satisfying life now and “the real life” to come.—1 Tim. 6:19.